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General Laws

Section 24. A person may petition under oath the juvenile court alleging on behalf of a child within its jurisdiction that the child: (a) is without necessary and proper physical or educational care and discipline; (b) is growing up under conditions or circumstances damaging to the child’s sound character development; (c) lacks proper attention of the parent, guardian with care and custody or custodian; or (d) has a parent, guardian or custodian who is unwilling, incompetent or unavailable to provide any such care, discipline or attention.

The court may issue a precept to bring the child before the court, and shall issue a notice to the department and summonses to both parents of the child to show cause why the child should not be committed to the custody of the department or why any other appropriate order should not be made. A petition under this section may be brought in the judicial district where the child is located or where the parent, guardian with care and custody or custodian is domiciled. The summonses shall include notice that the court may dispense with the right of the parents to notice of or consent to the adoption, custody or guardianship or any other disposition of the child named therein if it finds that the child is in need of care and protection and that the best interests of the child would be served by any such disposition. Notice shall be by personal service upon the parent. If the identity or whereabouts of a parent is unknown, the petitioner shall cause notice in a form prescribed by the court to be served upon such parent by publication once in each of 3 successive weeks in any newspaper as the court may order. If no parent can be found after reasonable search, a summons shall be issued to the child’s legal guardian, if any, known to reside within the commonwealth and, if none, to the person with whom such child last resided, if known.

If the court is satisfied after the petitioner testifies under oath that there is reasonable cause to believe that: (i) the child is suffering from serious abuse or neglect or is in immediate danger of serious abuse or neglect; and (ii) that immediate removal of the child is necessary to protect the child from serious abuse or neglect, the court may issue an emergency order transferring custody of the child for up to 72 hours to the department or to a licensed child care agency or individual described in subclause (ii) of clause (2) of subsection (b) of section 26.

Upon entry of the order, notice to appear before the court shall be given to either parents, both parents, a guardian with care and custody or another custodian. At that time, the court shall determine whether temporary custody shall continue beyond 72 hours until a hearing on the merits of the petition for care and protection is concluded before the court. The court shall also consider the provisions of section 29C and shall make the written certification and determinations required by said section 29C.

Upon the issuance of the precept and order of notice, the court shall appoint a person qualified under section 21A to investigate the conditions affecting the child and to make a report under oath to the court, which shall be attached to the petition and be a part of the record.

If the child is alleged to be abandoned, as defined in section 3 of chapter 210, hearings on the petition under section 26 shall be expedited. If the parents or guardians consent, a child may be committed to the department under this section without a hearing or notice.

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